This is the letter sent by WBAI/UE Local 404 to The Nation about their article “Whose Pacifica?” which contained the assertion that Union busting wasn't really going on at Pacifica.

UE Local 404 letterhead

May 3, 1999

The Editors
The Nation
33 Irving Place
New York, NY 10003

Dear Editors:

We at WBAI were amazed to read in “Whose Pacifica?” Mark Cooper's assertion that there is no Union busting going on at the Pacifica Foundation, which owns WBAI. Our Union has been fighting one Union busting tactic after another from the Pacifica Foundation. When Mr. Cooper mentions the crisis at Pacifica he says that it is not a clear-cut battle between good and evil. We disagree, because we believe that unfair treatment of labor is indeed evil.

It should be clear to anyone who looks at the facts, which Mr. Cooper seems not to have done, that the Pacifica Foundation is trying to bust its Unions. Mr. Cooper wrote, “Yes, a few years back, Pacifica hired a management consultant with ties to a unionbusting firm--a stupid mistake that was corrected.” To frame the conflict in these terms seems odd given the facts: While Pacifica Management claims they only hired one person from the notorious Union busting firm The American Consulting Group they certainly derived the fruits of that organization's years of experience. The Current Pacifica Employee's Handbook was drafted by the American Consulting Group. The Contracts in effect at KPFA and KPFK were written, and in part negotiated by, operatives of the American Consulting Group. This same Contract was offered to the Staff of WBAI, but it has been rejected because it demanded givebacks, concessions, conversion of some Staff into employees-at-will and an evisceration of the grievance procedure, among other anti-labor provisions.

In 1996, Pacifica/WBAI Management attempted to remove 90% of the WBAI Staff from the Collective Bargaining Unit (CBU) by using the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). However, in 1997, the NLRB ruled that the Paid and Unpaid Staff that Pacifica/WBAI Management attempted to remove were rightfully members of the CBU. But Pacifica/WBAI Management ignored this ruling and refused to negotiate the Contract. They have appealed part of that decision, and whether they want to go all the way to the Supreme Court with it is a matter of speculation. Currently the Union at WBAI, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) Local 404, has Unfair Labor Practice charges pending against WBAI Management for its refusal to negotiate.

Furthermore, Pacifica/WBAI Management is continuing to follow the script prepared for them by the American Consulting Group by attempting to steal jobs from the CBU and re-label them as Management positions. This tactic is also the subject of a number of Unfair Labor Practice charges which have been filed against Pacifica/WBAI Management.

In Fiscal Year 1996, WBAI spent $32,000 on fighting the Union. WBAI General Manager Valerie Van Isler also admitted that Pacifica had spent an additional $30,000 fighting Unions. Since then all fees relating to Pacifica/WBAI Management's fight against its own labor force have been hidden in Pacifica's budget. The Staff at WBAI believe that Union busting is a terrible and unwholesome use of the donations made by listener-sponsors.

The Pacifica Foundation has even sought to extend the notorious gag rule to its affiliates. After several affiliate radio stations aired interviews with people who are actively resisting the attempt to corporatize and undermine Pacifica, and with Union officials involved in the NLRB decision, the following appeared in all of Pacifica's affiliate contracts, “Pacifica may terminate this Agreement if ... Station dilutes the good will associated with Pacifica's name.”

All of these facts are public knowledge and some of the primary documents are even available on line at It is unfortunate that Mr. Cooper chose to ignore them in his effort to maintain that the current crisis is not a part of a larger conflict that affects all of Pacifica, its affiliates and its listeners.

We are disappointed that The Nation would run such an inaccurate article.

                                     In solidarity,


R. Paul Martin
Chief Steward
WBAI/UE Local 404

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